Private Harold Bailey

40431, 8th Bn. North Staffordshire Regiment died November 19th 1916 Age 20

 

Born circa 1896, Harold was the son of Mary Ellen Bailey. It seems likely that he was brought up by his grandparents, Thomas and Sarah Ann in the Cloud Side area. His mother married Alfred Fisher at Leek in 1897 but Harold remained with his grandparents and was still living with them at the age of 15 in 1911. His grandfather was a farmer and stonemason so perhaps Harold planned to learn the trade.

He was another local soldier who joined the ranks in the early days of the Great War; enlisting at Butterton in September 1914. Harold, or Harry as he was known, joined the 8th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. Leaving his work as a stonemason at Cloud Side, he started his initial training at Butterton Hall moving on to Bristol, Weston-super-Mare and then Tidworth, Salisbury Plain.

Training complete there followed an inspection by King George V on June 20th 1915 and the battalion, now attached to 57th Brigade, 19th Western Division, made ready for war and embarcation. The troops crossed the English Channel landing in France on July 18th, and soon moved forward to their concentration assembly near St. Omer. By late September the division were preparing to fight a diversionary action in the Battle of Loos.

The following year Harry and his mates were to see action in the Battle of the Somme; a battle with many casualties lasting from July 1st until late November. The 8th North Staffords fought throughout this time with a successful attack at La Boisselle on July 4th. On November 18th they were in action south of Grandcourt. These brave soldiers were already enduring an unbelievably cold winter and by now the weather had turned even worse, with a blizzard of heavy snow greeting the troops that day.

Not dissimilar to October 13th 1915, this too was to be a sad time for the Regiment. For on November 18th and 19th 1916, almost seventy valiant Staffordshire men were to fall including, at the age of twenty, Private Harry Bailey. Two of his pals from Biddulph - Arthur Lacey and Harold Simpson, also died in the closing days of the battle.

Over twelve months later, on December 15th 1917, the Chronicle reported on the case of Private Harry Bailey. It would seem that initially he was reported as ‘missing’ but from “available evidence of an eye-witness, the War Office are now constrained to conclude that he was killed in action or died of wounds the 18th – 19th November 1916”. They continued with a statement from the War Office which reported that they “regretted that the correct casualty suffered by this soldier was not originally reported, but it was not always possible to collect accurate details regarding casualties immediately after action. Prior to enlistment, Private Bailey was employed by his grandfather, Mr. Thomas Bailey, stonemason, Cloud Side.

Harry Bailey was never recovered from the battlefield and has no known grave and is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme. He is also commemorated on the Biddulph and Congleton memorials.

Mike Turnock.

 

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